In Moab, when you hear the word cataract, most people think you are talking about an intense river trip down an epic waterfall-filled canyon.

However, our sun-filled days put us at higher risk of developing the medical condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, known as a cataract.

While cataracts may be present at birth, most cataracts develop very gradually with advancing age and may run in families.

Essentially, cataracts lead to decreased vision, even in daylight, and occur generally in both eyes, although one eye may be worse than the other. Vision slowly worsens and may go undiagnosed until individuals cannot perform activities of daily living as they once did.

A standard eye exam is used to diagnose cataracts and may be completed by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. An optometrist performs examinations, diagnoses and treats certain eye problems and prescribes glasses and contact lenses. An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who diagnoses and treats diseases of the eye and may perform the necessary surgery for cataracts or other intraocular procedures.

Environmental factors, such as smoking, exposure to other toxic substances, excessive sunlight and eye injuries can cause cataracts to develop more quickly.

Diseases such as diabetes and chronic health conditions and certain medications such as cortisone can also speed up the process.

According to local optometrist Dr. Todd Hackney, the best prevention involves controlling diseases that increase the risk for cataracts and exposure to factors known to promote their formations.

Wearing sunglasses when you are outside during the day can reduce the UV light your eyes are exposed to.

However, not all sunglasses filter out the harmful UV rays. Check with your eye care provider for advice on which ones will be helpful.

If cataract surgery is necessary, the only treatment is removal of the lens of the eye. The lens in the eye focuses light. This lets the eye see images sharply. A cataract scatters light and makes it hard for the eye to focus.

Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, meaning you likely do not have to stay overnight at the hospital. The surgeon removes the lens of the eye and replaces it with a man-made lens. The surgery usually lasts less than an hour. If you have cataracts in both eyes, your doctor may suggest waiting 1 to 2 months between each surgery.

Nurse Nancy Chartier is the head of the medical and surgical floor at Moab Regional Hospital.

Factors that may contribute to cataract development are:

Diseases that cause inflammation or affect metabolism

Eye injury

Family history

Long-term use of corticosteroids/cortisone

Radiation exposure


Too much exposure to ultraviolet light (sunlight)

Visual symptoms may include:

Cloudy or filmy vision

Loss of color intensity

Double vision

Difficulty seeing at night

Problems seeing shapes against a particular background

Seeing halos around lights

Being sensitive to glare

Frequent eyeglass changes in prescription